My Friend-The Bat: A step by step guide on how to make your own “hand made” bat
With Hallowe’en just around the corner, it is the time of year when we bring ourselves face to face with those things we find scary. From famous characters like Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy to generic ghosts and zombies, these colourful characters always rear their heads come late October. One of these Hallowe’en elements that I always loved growing up was the bat!
I felt like Hallowe’en was a special time for the bat because it’s an animal that is around all year but they only get to step into the limelight in Hallowe’en. It’s their chance to go from being a feared creature that dwells mostly in attics and graveyards to the centre of attention. Animal Planet published an article on 13 incredible bat facts, including my favourite reason for having these guys around, which is: “a single brown bat can catch around 1,200 mosquito-size insects in one hour”. It’s jobs like this that the bat performs that always gave them a special place in my books. No matter how scary bats are made out to be, I’ll take them over mosquito-sized insects any day of the week.
Make your own “hand made” bat!
In an attempt to further boost the bat’s public image, we made some bats at this past weekend’s Hallowe’en Discovery Corner. In case you didn’t get a chance to make it out to the ROM this Saturday, here’s a step by step buide to making our bat-themed Hallowe’en decorations!
You will need:
- Toilet paper roll
- Construction paper
- Glue stick
- Clear tape or masking tape
- Googly eyes
- White pencil crayon or chalk
STEP 1: The body of the bat is made out of a toilet paper roll. This makes for a fairly sturdy body that you can attach some weight to without it falling apart. I also love when art projects find a use for all those things we have laying around our houses like egg cartons, yogurt containers and toilet paper rolls.
STEP 2: Cut out a piece of construction paper as tall as the toilet paper roll and long enough to wrap around at least once. Use a glue stick to attach the construction paper to the roll and add a piece of clear tape right at the seam to make sure it stays on. We’ll use this seam later to know where to place the wings but for now, we know to start making the face on the opposite side.
STEP 3: For the face I tended to use black or brown paper for my bats since they seem the most traditional to me, but these bats can really be any colour. In fact, there are red bats that live in North America, as well as the Honduran white bat, which has a white body with a yellow nose and ears.
Decorating the front of the bat can be as simple or as complex as you wish. On some of the bats I made, it was as simple as gluing on two googly eyes, two white triangles for fangs, and two black triangles for ears. For the more artistically inclined however, you can go a lot more in depth. You can give the bat a nose depending on which species it belongs to. You can give your bat a whole row of fangs. You can add a tail on the back. If you have access to a glue gun, you can even attach pom poms to give your bat the hairs that give them access to the exclusive mammal club.
STEP 4: The next step is to add feet to the bat. For these, I decided to use pipe cleaners. I’ve seen this project done with clothes pegs for feet before, which lets your bat hang sturdily, but I prefer pipe cleaners because they can be moulded and shaped to hang from just about anything. To attach the legs, simply cut a pipe cleaner down to size (I used roughly ¼ of a pipe cleaner per each leg), attach them each to a piece of masking tape, and place the tape and legs on the inside of the toilet paper roll. Once you’ve smoothed the tape down, you can shape your legs to whatever size they need to be for your bat to rest comfortably.
STEP 5: Once the body has been decorated with all the features you wish, it’s time to add the wings. To make them, trace two of your handprints and cut them out of construction paper. Once you’ve cut out your wings, glue them to the back of your bat, with the thumbs pointed down.
Reasons for the “hand bat”
The “hand bat” art project is a favourite of mine because it’s a project that gives you the choice between high-quality or high-quantity. It’s a fairly simple design, meaning that you can spend the bulk of your time decorating it with details around the eyes, fangs, and ears. On the flip side, you could also stick to the simplest design possible and make a whole family of bats in the same amount of time. Since there are at least 1200 known species of bats, it makes sense that each of your bat creations would look a little different as well.
Ever since I was a young boy, and was shown that your hand could be easily turned into a turkey, I’ve loved crafts that can work in a bit of a personal touch. By using your own hand for the wings, it makes your bat unique compared to anyone else in the family who made one. Also, if your family is like mine and brings out the same decorations for holidays year after year, you and your child will be able to track how much your bat wings have grown over the years!
Another reason why I like making the wings out of hand prints is that it reinforces the awesome fact that bat’s wings are actually their hands! Bats belong to the order Chiroptera, which translates literally to ‘hand-wing’. All bats have a thumb, which is located along the top of the wing. There is often also a claw attached to this that can be used for climbing, hanging, fighting, or handling food. The rest of the bat’s fingers are located along the rest of the wing, with skin stretching in between each digit. While their hands may look radically different than ours, it’s remarkable to think about how similar both are in structure.
So, whether you’re looking for a last-minute Hallowe’en craft or you feel your house could use some extra decorations, I hope you enjoy these bat creations! And hey, let us know if you’ve made your own, we’d love to see your “hand bat” creations!
- The ROM’s resident bat expert, and Assistant Curator of Mammalogy, Burton Lim is on twitter! Make sure to follow him.
- As a general FYI, we have a pretty awesome ROM made children’s book on bats called Burton & Isabelle Pipistrelle: Out of the Bat Cave. Learn more about it HERE and HERE. Note the Burton in the book is named after Burton the curator!
- Check out all of Chris Miller’s blogs HERE and follow him on Instagram!
- Big eared townsend bat. By PD-USGov, exact author unknown, via Wikimedia Commons.
- Finished “Hand Bat”. Chris Miller, 2013.
- Materials needed for the “Hand Bat”. Chris Miller, 2013.
- Construction paper and tape step. Chris Miller, 2013.
- Making the wings step. Chris Miller, 2013.
- Testing out the hanging skills of our bat. Chris Miller, 2013.
- David Schenfeld, “Bat - Just hanging around (need ID)" December 25, 2007 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
- iwouldificould, “Bat" May 2, 2008 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
- Finished “Hand Bat”. @kironcmukherjee, 2013.
Post by Chris Miller, ROMKids Studio Assistant. Last updated: October 28, 2013.
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